One easy way to remember common characteristics of melanoma is to think alphabetically – the ABCDEs of melanoma. ABCDE stands for asymmetry, border, color, diameter and evolving. These are the characteristics of skin damage that doctors look for when diagnosing and classifying melanomas.
- Asymmetry – Melanoma is often asymmetrical, which means the shape isn’t uniform. Non-cancerous moles are typically uniform and symmetrical in shape.
- Border – Melanoma often has borders that aren’t well defined or are irregular in shape, whereas non-cancerous moles usually have smooth, well-defined borders.
- Color – Melanoma lesions are often more than one color or shade. Moles that are benign are typically one color.
- Diameter – Melanoma growths are normally larger than 6mm in diameter, which is about the diameter of a standard pencil.
- Evolution – Melanoma will often change characteristics, such as size, shape or color. Unlike most benign moles, melanoma tends to change over time. If you have a mole or skin growth, watch it for signs of changes. If you notice any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, make an appointment right away to be evaluated by a dermatologist.
We recommend doing regular skin checks at home to look for changes in your skin. Call it an ABCDE assessment. If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of melanoma or you have a suspicious mole or lesion, make an appointment to see your doctor. You may want to have annual skin checks with a dermatologist as well so you can catch skin cancer before it becomes life threatening.
Skin cancer is common, and when it’s caught early, most skin cancer – including melanoma – can be cured.
If you see something on your skin, don’t panic. Most skin lesions and moles are not cancerous, but it’s always best to get checked out to be sure.
Learn more about moles and different types of skin cancer.